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During the American War of Independence which broke out in 1776, the French joined the Americans in fighting the British. Even though the Dutch remained neutral, they carried out contraband trade and were the suppliers of goods to the Americans. The British therefore decided to seize the Dutch colonies to prevent them from being used as depots for shipping goods to the Americans. In 1781, the British took control of Essequibo-Demerara without resistance when they arrived there with four privateering ships. The British allowed the settlers to retain their property, but the property of the West India Company was seized.

In Berbice, the Governor Pieter Hendrik Koppiers, on learning of the capture of Essequibo-Demerara, organised his small militia in an effort to show resistance, but it could do nothing when the British privateers arrived on the Berbice River and seized Fort St. Andries. As the privateers moved upriver, the crew burned buildings at Plantation Vryheid where apparently was some Dutch resistance. Soon after they captured Fort Nassau and Koppiers reluctantly ceded the colony to a British representative who arrived from Demerara. As with the case of Essequibo-Demerara, the Dutch colonists were also allowed to keep their property and Koppiers continued to hold the post as Governor.

With the British in control of the colonies, there was an influx of British settlers from Barbados and they were given land grants along the coast to cultivate sugar, cotton and coffee. However, since sugar was proving to be the most profitable, most of these new setters abandoned coffee and cotton cultivation and concentrated on sugar


Shortly after they seized the colonies, the British, under the command of the Lieutenant Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Kingston, constructed a small fort at the mouth of the Demerara River to protect the harbour. This fort was named Fort St. George, and near to it administrative buildings were erected to house the government of Demerara. The British also began laying out the beginnings of the town in the vicinity of the fort, near to which a little settlement developed.

But then, in January 1782, a French fleet arrived and the British were forced to surrender the colonies. Immediately, the new French administrators set about to build a town at the mouth of the Demerara River. Persons wishing to live in the new town were requested to apply for lots. Two parallel canals running east from the Demerara River were dug by slaves and the dirt which was excavated was used to build a dam between these canals. Settlers in the new town built their houses on both sides of this embankment which later was surfaced with bricks made from burnt clay. The resulting road later became known as Brickdam. The canals which ran at the back of the houses served as routeways for cargo. The town was first called Longchamps, but later the name was changed to La Novelle Ville, literally New Town.

The French also built two forts at the mouth of the Demerara River; the fort on the eastern side was named Le Dauphin and that on the western bank was named La Reine.

In Berbice, the French dismissed Koppiers but they continued the policy of the British of granting lands on the coast for cultivation.

When the war ended in 1783, the colonies were handed back to the Dutch who immediately renamed the new town Stabroek after the president of the West India Company. To ensure good drainage, numerous canals were dug and small sluices, called kokers, were built to control the drainage system. Streets, many of which were to be later lined with trees, were also laid out in a rectangular pattern. By 1789, the town had 88 houses and 780 residents.